This New York Designer Is Selling a $600 Bedazzled Putin T-Shirt

Instagram - Heron Preston Tee - Screenshot - H 2018
Courtesy of Instagram/@Heronpreston

We'll take this one with extra vodka, please.

As Vladimir Putin is busy cracking jokes about Trump’s alleged Russian ties, our country’s obsession with the Russian president seems to have reached a scary new high (or low) — his mug has popped up on a $594 T-shirt emblazoned with “Mr. President” in glittery Swarovski crystals.

On the tee, the work of streetwear designer Heron Preston, Putin looks downright shady (or maybe the vibe is more Soviet-spy cool) in dark aviators. Some may be disappointed that Pootie is suited up and not shirtless.

Preston teamed up with the Moscow-based concept store KM20 on the Heron Preston x KM20 collection that kicked off with a launch party last night at  the boutique-restaurant in Moscow. So far, the line includes just one other key piece: a $1,114 crystal-embellished PVC fanny pack in Day-Glo orange.

“This exclusive drop for KM20 Moscow is a reflection of my first trip to Russia as a tourist in May 2017 when I kicked off my global retail tour,” said Preston in an Instagram post.

Maybe it was inevitable that Putin’s likeness would be copped by pop culture. Preston’s fans include Bella Hadid, and his target is the millennial crowd.The Russian association isn’t exactly new for Preston, whose logo is the word “style” in Cyrillic, not to mention that he rolled out his first namesake collection at a pop-up shop within KM20 in Moscow in 2017. The fall Heron Preston collection was dubbed Public Figure, a reference to “influencer culture” according to Preston. Looks like he’s on to the real thing now.

But given the gravity of the election meddling issue and the fact that the Russian presidential election is just days away, on March 18, is this a move that cashes in on the controversy and could be perceived as propaganda — as if the pro-Putin propaganda machine needed any more fueling — taking things too far?

Comments on his Insta post were mixed. "That’s so fashion forward basically praising a dictator! Amazing," said @polinavolsk.  "Glamourising Putin utterly ignorant or a tasteless troll," added @topsturner.  "Kim Jong Un next season? Or straight to Hitler merch?" said @ericlovete.

"Oh pls fuck politics, this is just [a] joke about souvenir t-shirts," said @ilya_lesch.

“Yeah, there is a mix of emotions and feedback: Some people hate me now and some people really love the T-shirt,” Preston told WWD in an interview on Wednesday. “But I think it comes with the territory of having a point of view and I think that that is what makes a great designer or marketer — to stick with your beliefs and take risks. If I did not take risks, I think life would be a bit boring.”

Both Heron Preston x KM20 pieces are available now on the KM20 site and they’ll drop closer to home tomorrow (unless, of course, they are sanctioned) at

Maybe Perron will give Russian streetwear king Gosha Rubchinskiy (who staged his fall 2018 menswear show at the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Center, with Yeltsin’s daughter Tatyana Yumasheva in the audience, in January) a run for his money? Rubchinskiy‘s latest line included items printed with the words ” Friend, Accidentally, Enemy” in Russian and pieces with the combined U.S, Russian and Japanese flag patterns, hinting at some sort of new world alliance.